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For a long time, I’d heard that the music of composer
John Zorn defied classification into genres, but until now,
I hadn’t heard his music. I just finished watching
“Masada: Live at Tonic 1999,” a performance of
his “Jazz” group.

For lack of a better term, this “Klezmer Jazz” was performed
by a flexible ensemble, consisting of drummer Joey Baron
(1955 – ), double bassist Greg Cohen (1953 – ),
trumpeter Dave Douglas (1963 – ), and Zorn (1953 – ) on
alto saxophone. The 65-minute DVD that I watched was
taped at Tonic, a club in Manhattan. Their performance began
with a number that was in the “free” Jazz idiom, featuring flurries
of notes played at lightning speed. The pieces that followed were
clearly in the Klezmer vein.

It was remarkable to note how well this group played as a unit,
transitioning between improvisation and elements that were
clearly “composed,” presumably by Zorn. I was particularly
impressed with the sensitivity demonstrated by the drummer,
who placed his considerable skills in the service of the music.
Each of these instrumentalists were given opportunities to solo,
without degenerating into overindulgence. This was wonderfully
compelling music making, and I’m glad that I watched it.

Although it was a low-budget production, the sound quality
and camerawork were more than adequate, capturing the
intimacy of the venue.

I will definitely try to check out anything else that
John Zorn has done.

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